Continuing to Roll

Having an overwhelming advantage in shots (52-19) and faceoffs won (50-23) and shutting out the third-best power play in the nation, No.2 Wisconsin didn't feel safe until the final 82 seconds, as a pair of goals gave the Badgers the comfort margin in a big 5-2 victory over No.9 Minnesota Duluth.

DULUTH, Minn. - Friday night's game between No.2 Wisconsin and No.9 Minnesota Duluth looked like a shootout at the start.

It wasn't until the final 1 minute, 22 seconds, as the Badgers scored a pair of goals to knock the Bulldogs from the top of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with a 5-2 victory at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

The victory puts Wisconsin (15-6-4, 11-5-3 WCHA) puts Wisconsin in a third-place tie with Duluth (16-10-1, 12-6-1 WCHA), just one point behind Denver and St. Cloud State.

As soon as the puck dropped, the Bulldogs stepped on the gas, using their speed to create a number of scoring chances, and with just 1:26 off the clock, UMD took the lead.

David Grun buried just his second goal of the year on a 3-on-1 opportunity as he slid the puck past a sprawling Scott Gudmandson.

The UMD forwards caught the UW defense off guard, and for junior defenseman Brendan Smith, an equipment malfunction didn't help his cause.

"I actually stepped on something and it stayed on my skate for a while," Smith said. "At that time, they came back with a 3-on-1, which was pretty unfortunate."

The Bulldogs' explosive attack continued beyond the opening goal, but it was senior forward John Mitchell who tied things up with a power-play goal midway through the first period. On a designed play, Mitchell stuffed home a pass from Craig Smith to get the Badgers back even.

Shortly after the goals kept coming.

UW defenseman Jake Gardiner received the puck on the blue line following a face-off win and the sophomore ripped a shot past UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter to give the Badgers the lead.

That advantage wouldn't last long as the Bulldogs created another odd-man rush. Jordan Fulton took a perfect pass from Grun and scored easily to level the score.

At the end of the first period, the score was deadlocked at two a piece, and despite preparing all week for the smaller rink at the DECC, UW Coach Mike Eaves could sense his team was caught off guard.

"You try to explain what the game is going to be like, but we still got caught," Eaves said. "We weren't ready for the pace that they came with in the smaller space but after the first period I thought we really settled down."

Not only did the Badgers settle down, for the next two periods they took the game to UMD.

With just over nine minutes gone in the second period, the Badgers created another goal thanks to a face-off win in the offensive zone. This time Brendan Smith took the pass from tri-captain Blake Geoffrion and the junior defenseman slapped one by the left pad of Reiter.

That would be all the scoring in the second period, but the momentum had swung in UW's favor as the Badgers settled down after a hectic first period.

"We settled in. I mean they were flying at the start so we had to calm ourselves down," Smith said. "Coach even said to me ‘Smitty take a few breaths, breath for me'. We started getting into the flow and we got comfortable with the whole atmosphere."

Senior forward Aaron Bendickson was confident the Badgers would respond to the pressure applied by UMD.

"You have to weather the storm, keep playing and rise above it and that's just what we did."

As the third period progressed, the ice seemed tilted towards the Duluth net. The Badgers were relentless on the forecheck, continuously cycling the puck in the corners, as the Bulldogs scrambled to keep the game within reach.

UW struggled to find their scoring touch in the third period, but according to Geoffrion, the non-stop pressure at the start of the final period did plenty of damage.

"That's our game - especially on the road. We call it roping and doping, and we just kept grinding them down," Geoffrion said. "Its tough to play when a team does that to you."

With less than two minutes remaining the Badgers finally doubled their lead, and there was nothing Reiter could do about it as Bendickson fired a shot into the emptied net. That goal allowed UW to breath a huge sigh of relief.

"We couldn't get that fourth goal and that game was in limbo right until the very end until Bendy put in that empty net goal," Eaves said.

But the Badgers weren't done yet.

In the game's final minute, Geoffrion found the back of the net to stretch the lead to 5-2.

When all was said and done, the shot total was 52-19 in UW's favor. The Badgers had 20 in the third period alone, and the final score evidence the superiority they displayed in final two periods. The Badgers wanted to send a message in the series opener and they did just that.

"They're a great team so we knew we had a tough game coming in," Geoffrion said. "But we wanted to make a statement and that was a great way to start it off."

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